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“What ceasefire?” : Despite Putin’s declaration of a ceasefire for 36 hours, the Ukrainian front was shelled

The scene after the recent shelling of Makifka, Ukraine.
The scene after the recent shelling of Makifka, Ukraine.

WASHINGTON — Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged fire on the Ukrainian front on Friday, despite Moscow saying it had ordered its troops to stop firing in order to reach a unilateral ceasefire, which Kiev staunchly rejected.

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a 36-hour ceasefire starting at noon Friday to celebrate Russian Orthodox Christmas. Ukraine has said it has no intention of stopping the fighting and has refused to accept the so-called ceasefire, saying it is a gimmick by Moscow to buy time to reinforce troops that have suffered heavy losses this week.

“What ceasefire? Can you hear me?” A Ukrainian soldier who goes by the pseudonym Vyshnya said. At this time, distant explosions were heard from the front line near Kreminna in eastern Ukraine. “If they keep shooting, what do they want to achieve? We know that we have learned not to believe them. ”

Russian troops have been observing the ceasefire since noon Moscow time (0900 GMT), however, Ukraine has been shelling populated areas and military positions, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The explosion heard by Reuters, which Ukrainian forces on the front line said was an attack by Russian rockets. The Ukrainians returned fire with tanks.

The Ukrainian army said that today is calmer than many days because snow makes it difficult for drones to fly and detect targets.

“Today is exactly the same as yesterday, the day before yesterday, last week, last month,” said a man who covered his face with a scarf. “It makes no sense to negotiate with them and trust their promises, orders, and decrees.”

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It is not immediately possible to determine whether the intensity of the fighting has decreased in other locations.

In Donetsk, the capital of the Russian-occupied region, a witness also described artillery fired from pro-Russian positions on the outskirts of the city after the ceasefire agreement was about to come into effect.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province on Ukraine’s eastern front, said that in the first three hours of the so-called ceasefire, the Russians carried out 14 shelling of Ukrainian positions and three attacks on a settlement.

“Orthodox murderers wish you a Merry Christmas,” he wrote on the social platform Telegram.

The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Christmas on January 7. Ukraine’s main Orthodox Church has rejected Moscow’s jurisdiction, and many Ukrainian believers have changed their calendars to celebrate Christmas on December 25, as in the West.

Instead of attending public celebrations with other believers, Putin attended a service on his own at a Kremlin cathedral. Russian state television aired two live clips of Mr. Putin inside the gilded Cathedral of the Annunciation as Orthodox priests presided over a midnight holy service.

Washington unveiled its latest $3.75 billion military aid package, which provides military aid to Ukraine and war-affected allies, and sends Bradley, the main armored vehicle of the US Army, to Ukraine for the first time.

For a week, Germany and France also promised armored vehicles, finally meeting one of Kiev’s most pressing demands to its allies, which is to defeat Russian tanks in mechanized combat.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, during a visit to Washington last month, pleaded with the United States to provide “Bradley armored vehicles, his first trip abroad since the war began.” He said Friday that the vehicles were “exactly what is needed.”

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Shortly before the ceasefire was about to begin, rockets hit a residential building in Kramatorsk, near the eastern front, destroying 14 homes, but there were no casualties because many had fled.

“It’s bad, very bad,” Oleksandr, 36, said outside a supermarket at the time of the attack. “We need to pressure them to leave, maybe more air defense will help.” This happens a lot, and not just at festivals. It happens every other day. ”

Just before Friday’s deadline, Russian forces shelled a fire department in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, killing one rescuer and wounding four others, the local governor said. Reuters could not immediately confirm this claim.

Zelensky immediately rejected Russia’s ceasefire agreement, believing that it was a strategy for Russia to buy time to replenish equipment and ammunition after suffering serious losses on the front line. Dozens of Russian servicemen were killed in an attack over the New Year’s weekend.

Laura Cooper, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia and Ukraine, told reporters in Washington on Friday that Putin’s statements about the ceasefire should not be “taken for granted.”

“This is the guy who once said he wouldn’t invade Ukraine,” Cooper said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February 24 triggered a war that left tens of thousands dead and millions of Ukrainians displaced. With weapons and financial support from the United States and Europe, Ukraine has already pushed Russia back from part of its territory, but fighting in the east and south is still raging.

Over the past day, Ukrainian soldiers repelled several Russian attacks, with Moscow focusing on trying to seize towns in Donetsk, according to the Ukrainian General Staff.

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(This article is based on a Reuters report.)

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